Tate Stevens' days as a road construction worker are apparently over.
The likable country crooner, who had put his musical dreams on hold to provide for his family, was crowned the Season 2 winner of "The X Factor" Thursday night at the end of an outrageously bloated two-hour finale that aired on Fox. With the victory, he earns a $5 million recording contract with Sony Music.
Stevens, 37, beat out teen dynamo Carly Rose Sonenclar, who finished in second, and the prefab girl group Fifth Harmony.
More than 35 million votes were cast by viewers after Wednesday's performance show.
"First and foremost I have to thank the man upstairs for taking care of me," Stevens said after being declared the winner. "To my family all the county music fans, God bless you. Thank you so much for the votes. This is the best day of my life."
Stevens' victory came as no major surprise. He had spent more time atop the reality show's leader board than any other contestant. A native of the small town of Belton, Mo., he was bolstered by an aw-shucks, everyman appeal and consistently rock-solid vocals.
That, and Stevens' endearing back story, made it difficult not to root for him. He had put his hopes of a music career on the back burner in order to draw a steady paycheck. And it wasn't until his wife, Ashlie, pushed him to revisit his dream did he audition for "The X factor."
Stevens, who finished off the night by singing "Tomorrow," was mentored this season by L.A. Reid, who has announced that he will not return as a judge next season.
The country singer's coronation didn't come until after two hours of reality show filler that included cheesy, choreographed red-carpet arrivals, a few holiday tunes, several wardrobe changes by Khloe Kardashian, and more recap footage than even the most devoted fan could stand.
The finale also featured performances by only two guest acts -- Pitbull and One Direction, the latter group having already performed on "The X Factor" earlier this season. It terms of star power, it was downright anemic compared to Tuesday night's finale of "The Voice," which welcomed Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne, the Killers, Smokey Robinson and Peter Frampton.
Midway through Thursday's "X Factor" show, the final three acts convened on the stage and it was announced that Fifth Harmony had finished third. The group was made of five singers who entered the competition as soloists before being thrown together. They spent much of the season as underdogs who started in the middle of the pack and then made a spirited charge into the finals.
"I have a feeling that we're going to be hearing and seeing a lot more of these girls in the future," said Simon Cowell, who mentored Fifth Harmony.
Toward the end of the evening, Stevens and Sonenclar combined for a duet on "The Climb," the inspirational hit made famous by Miley Cyrus, finishing it off with high-fives and a hug.